Counterpoint: Thinking at the Ballot Box
ARPA Note: The following article was submitted by a reader in response to a previous article on ARPA’s site. We welcome other readers to submit articles for consideration but reserve the right to decide what to publish.
A recently posted article, titled “Gambling at the Ballot Box”, offered a brief critique of what is perceived to be the attitude of many Christians when it comes time to vote in a federal election. The article begins with the important reminder that our vote is both a privilege and a responsibility, an assertion I agree with. Arguing that many Christians treat an election as if it is a “gambling game”, the article criticized some pragmatic voting practices, such as avoiding hopeless campaigns and supporting those who have the best chance at defeating a dangerous candidate. Instead, it encouraged a vote “cast in accordance with our beliefs”, implying that these positions are often incompatible. This response will argue that they are not.
As stated, the right to vote is indeed a responsibility; but that must be explained. What, precisely, is the vote of a Christian responsible for? Without a stated goal, we encounter a myriad of conflicting objectives. Do we stand in line to ease our conscience? To cast a vote for candidates that agree with the greatest possible number of policies we support? Do we fixate on one issue that we care about and support it to the exclusion of all others? Or do we vote for a result that will see our values most accurately reflected in Parliament? The answer to this question will determine which name ends up on our ballot, and they do not all arrive at the same conclusion.
A biblical worldview on democratic participation should encourage voters to work toward policies that support justice, advance good government, and reflect Christian morality to the greatest extent possible. However, it should also understand that we have a responsibility to protect Canada from regressive, harmful policies, just as government cares for its citizens by defending them against injustice. This takes strategy; a vote that puts Canadians at greater risk of irresponsible government is absolutely not a responsible vote. As such, the statement “I’ll put my vote behind the candidate who will most likely beat the party that I despise” could be a responsible statement if the party in question is aiming to bring about policies that harm Canada and our freedoms. We pick the safest car seats for our children because we know we have a duty to care for them; do we not also have a duty to choose the safest government?
The author argues that we ought to concentrate on our own vote and ensure it reflects our views; but what does that mean? Democracy isn’t about a policy platform from every voter; it is about choice. In each election, we are given a finite number of viable options, and the chance to choose wisely. A responsible assessment should include the strengths and weaknesses of each party, and foresight regarding possible outcomes. This is strategic thinking, and unlike the author’s assertions, this is the antithesis of gambling our vote.
Our votes should be cast based on principle; not the principle of perfect policy alignment, but the principle of maximizing Christian influence in government. If we do not apply strategic wisdom to this end, we are not stewarding our vote well. Our religious freedoms, our economic prosperity, and the future of our families depend on our votes. Let us cast them with both wisdom and prayer.